Thursday, August 21, 2008

Schools on Facebook (app by Inigral)

A few weeks ago I discovered this new Facebook app that attempts to leverage university enrollment data (eek, I know, hang with me) and create a secure social network space inside Facebook for students/instructors/courses/organizations.

Called Schools on Facebook, this app does look promising in that it facilitates connections among classmates in a way that our current course management system cannot on a platform that virtually everyone is using.

The first step in determining whether this has any educational value is running it by some students. (We sure would not want to build any type of creepy treehouse, you know.)

[Note: I initially forgot to add that Michael Feldstein invited Inigral's Michael Staton to describe the application here. It's worth reading his article and the comments.]

Here are some comments from two students after watching Inigral's demo video:

"At first I was a little skeptical; however, I think this application has a TON of potential, especially for allowing students to network with their classmates, specifically other students in their major. The uses are more numerous than I can count--from organizing study groups, to leaning what student orgs your classmates are in, to learning more about the students/staff/professors in your department. I also think that it is still "fairly" (loose term) secure, since each individual user still has the ability to limit who sees their profile, and all the class discussion boards are public forms (more or less)....I think it is definitely worth looking into for Facebook users on our campus (the majority of students). It has huge potential to get a promote our University--not only as a step up as a tech savy institution, but also to promote the University to new students (via current students using this application)."


"There are so many applications and different features on Facebook now that I can't keep up with what is changing and what is still the same. It's overwhelming actually :D. But I think this application is very useful for meeting people who is in your class. I've had so many classmates who have e-mailed the whole class list asking a question about an assignment or getting lecture notes and I've had some professors who tell us that the class list is for their use only. So I think this application will be very useful for students to communicate with each other without actually adding them as "Friends" on Facebook. There are so many applications on it right now that are sooooo pointless but people still use it so I think something as useful as this has good potential."

I pinged Inigral's Michael Staton for more information, and the other day he called me up. We discussed at length the difficulty (policy-wise) in getting our university to send enrollment data to a third-party. However, I must admit that I have yet to even broach the subject with our enrollment management staff. I was impressed by Michael's understanding of the issues involved with this type of data integration. He also emphasized their goal of making integration as simple as possible for university technologists.

Michael told me that the future direction of this application would veer more towards student life than learning, as he was leery of trying to compete against the traditional learning management systems.

He also said that other features would include things like gifting, a name game (for putting names with faces--instructors would love this), a message wall, and instructor-managed controls for what is or is not displayed on a course page.

So...what do YOU think about this new app? Is it worth investigating at UW? Do let me know.


jeff said...

I see today that The Chronicle covered Schools.

mpstaton said...

Hey Jeff,

Glad to see you got some good feedback. Students seem pretty excited to connect with people that share affiliations with them but they're not yet "friends" with in our UE research as well, so I'm glad your students are confirming it.

I'll be happy to talk to both the enthusiasts and the skeptics at UWM. Ultimately, I know that this is something most schools will want to adopt (in some form or another), so I hope I can work with forward thinking people like yourself to take this to the next level.

All the best,

Michael Staton
Inigral, Inc